Beach wilderness

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Dec 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Capricho Beach House

Flag of El Salvador  , Ahuachapán,
Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday 22nd August:

Moving on down to the coast today. El Salvador is known for its rugged, untouched coastline, with great surf spots apparently. But we were headed for a very secluded spot called Barra de Santiago. Lena actually had a beach house there, so arranged to stay at hers and she gave us the directions to get there.

It had to be a very early start, catching the first bus at 6:30am in order to make all the connections. A local bus to the station, which was rammed and so hot – with all our bags on didn't really help. Then a long distance bus (well, its less than an hour, but its there kinda long distance) to Sensonate, and once again a local bus – which left at 10am, or 4:40pm hence the reason for getting there early as its not a very frequent bus.

The journey went by smoothly enough, and we arrived at midday to a very secluded beach village. The bus driver pointed us in the right direction, so off we walked, completely unsure as there were no signs to tell us where to go. After stopping a couple of local people and getting pointed in the right way, we arrived at the beach house.
It was right on the beach, and this beach... well, we pretty much had it to ourselves. Its a black sand beach, very rustic and wild – reminded me of the some of the beaches in New Zealand.
Unfortunately no upgrade this side, so we had to make do with the dorm. We were really hot after the journey, and luckily for us they had a huge sun lounger overlooking the beach that Si and I went to relax on and chilled out there for the afternoon.

Later on we took a slow walk in one direction to see the river mouth. The beach house is on a peninsula, with the sea on one side, and a river filled with mangroves and heaving with birds and other wildlife. It was a special walk, saw a fisherman with his net – you know the old style way of fishing, throwing his net at the waves and crossing his finger. We only saw 4 other people for the whole 2kms that we walked.
Right at the end of the peninsula was a little beach shack restaurant where we stopped and had a drink. Can't imagine this place getting much business, but the owner seemed friendly enough and he had a cold beer for Si, so always a good thing.

Walked back, had a nice refreshing shower, and dinner was ready for us – as we had to pre-order in the afternoon. Its quite a small place, so I think they need time to get all the ingredients.

One of the main reason we chose to come here, other than the fact its so secluded and not touristy in the slightest, was because its turtle season. Turtles coming to lay there eggs at night, and also this is a conservation area and they collect the eggs and when the baby turtles hatch they release them back into the ocean. So later on in the night, armed with our torch we set off down to the beach to see all these turtles. Well... After 45minutes of walking we didn't see anything. It started to rain and the was a huge thunderstorm, which was quite eerie. I normally love thunder and lightning, but when you're on a deserted beach, not able to see in front of you and the sky lights up with a huge lightning bolt and you can all of a sudden see people wearing bright coloured rain coats right next to you... It gives you the heebie-geebies.. Well, it did me anyways. So we called it a night. The rain got harder and the storm became even more hectic that Si had to get in the bottom bunk with me as the roof was leaking on his bed. So it was a rather squashed nights sleep in a single bunk bed.

Tuesday 23rd August:

This morning we rang Lena just to ask about the turtles and she said that they release the babies from the village and she would send a guy over to take us on a boat tour of the mangrove forest and also see the little turtles as well. Whilst on the phone she also said as we were staying that we could have another free upgrade of the room... We were both really starting to like this woman very much! We moved all our things to a private room, and obviously that took all our energy, so we had to lie on the sun loungers again for a bit, enjoying reading and watching the huge waves crashing down in front of us.

A local guy, called Julio, arrived – he was going to be our guide for the afternoon. So we walked to the other side where the river was and got into his tiny little metal boat... which we hoped would take all our weight and not sink. For a cushion, I got some leaves off of a tree... Hey, its recyclable!

The boat went down the river and he was speaking in Spanish but we picked up a few things, like how its a protected national park, and how big it is... Probably the biggest mangrove forest I've ever seen. Saw loads of birds, names of which were given in Spanish, but I understood Heron... And pelicano! Yes, Pelican! The boat was weaving its way through the mangroves, it was really quite special. Julio stopped the boat on a middle island, and after climbing our way through the forest, we came across a humongous field of corn/maize... It was so random, right in the middle of nowhere. Bless, Julio then proceeded to tell us a story about a prince, princess and king – but all we could understand really was that the prince died, shot in the heart with an arrow, and the princess came here... Not sure what it was about really, but I smiled and nodded so he just kept talking...

Back on the boat and we jetted off into even narrower tunnels through the mangrove forest, this time searching for crocodiles. Which are spotted here quite frequently. Along the way we pasted some local fishermen in their little rowing boats. Fishing old school ways – you know, with the nets again. Si was really enjoying the photos he got. Friendly people, pointing us in the direction of the crocs. But it wasn't meant to be... No crocodiles for us. The closest we got was seeing an huge Iguana. Well its kinds a croc shape!?! We did get to see plenty of flying fish which was quite fun!

Soon we were out of the forest and we headed to the peninsula and past a huge flock of pelicans. Having never seen one before, I've seen loads since being this side of the world. They are so big, and its cool to see the flying over head... Just watch out, there poo is massive!

We stopped off at the same little beach shack we found yesterday, and the boys enjoyed a nice cold beer, while the sun was starting to go down. Very relaxing!

One thing we asked about was seeing the turtles, and we didn't really understand Julio enough –  the reply we got was either he would take us to the turtles at 5pm, or the turtles are released at 5pm and we'll need to make our own way there... All confusing, so we just went with the flow, got back in the boat and as he went past our place we figured he must be taking us to the turtles.

He stopped on the river and tired the boat up and we walked in land a little. He told us that this was his house... I got a big lump in my throat as it wasn't really a house, more of a shelter with a hammock, but he seemed happy enough. He had a dog and several chickens running around – not sure if they were his or neighbours.
Then he got his motorbike and said to jump on, but we would be happy to walk if he wanted, but no he insisted – so Julio took me first. Glad he did as it was a fair old walk, then went back to get Si.

He dropped us off right by another persons house which led onto the sea. Although the properties here are so basic, with the location they have you'd pay a fortune for them in most countries. Front gardens right on the beach!
It was some persons house, and in the front of it was a fenced off area, with little circular areas fenced off inside as well. Julio was trying to explain something to us, but we didn't have a clue what he was talking about – then he motioned for us to wait here and he hopped back onto his bike. Si and I were so confused by this point. Eventually he came back, with another guy, and they took us into the little fenced off area and he uncovered a bucket. And inside were loads of tiny baby turtles. Honestly, they were just so cute! Swimming around and flapping about. The guy said something, again we didn't really understand and the next thing you know he took a handful of turtles, put them into another bucket and we headed out to the shore. Great, we're letting them go.

He then took them out the bucket and Si and I got to watch as they slowly made their way to the big wide ocean. Some were way faster than others, one or two were heading in the wrong direction, so we had to help them, but eventually the front runner was getting so close. Then a wave came in and just as we thought YAY! He's made it, the guy grabbed the turtle and put it back in the bucket... HUH? Anyways, with a bit of sign language and a few words in Spanish we understood that they couldn't release them now – due to the tides and other things, that they did it much later at night. They only did this so we could get some photos. Which was very kind of them, but I felt sorry for the little guys who'd almost made it to the sea. However, these people do this every day, so they know the best times and way to help the turtle population. We did donate some money though to say thank you. Glad we got to see them, but it would've been nice to watch the whole process.

Now it was time to say bye to Julio and had a very very long walk back to our hut along the beach. We did need to book our next bus ticket, so needed to get some internet – Julio said their was one place, pointed to the street when we were on the bike, so Si and I walked there first.

It wasn't obvious which place was the “internet café” so we walked to the end of the street and then went into a shop. The guy said no, and pointed next door. So we went next door, which looked like a bar, with a pool table. Asked the guy for internet, he said 1 dollar and we agreed. Then he pointed us to a table, which had no computer on it. OK, maybe he was going to get a laptop or something... But he walked over to the fridge. Si and I were extremely puzzled now. Maybe El Salvador has some new fridge PC we're not aware of. But the gentleman got a beer out and headed back towards us... Ah, another misunderstanding. Weird actually as the Spanish word for internet is internet, nothing like Cerveza, which is beer... But maybe he was running on auto pilot. We said no thanks, and asked again for internet which he then realised and said NO. So we went next door and found a few computers set up... Finally. Email sent, bus tickets sorted we headed out to grab a bite to eat.

There weren't any restaurants as such, more like little shop windows with ladies making tortillas and things. We stopped and grabbed some for the friendliest woman, who was so proud of her food. We ordered some chicken, beans, and pupuas?? which are a local dish of tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese... Can't say it was my cup of tea, but Si absolutely loved it!

Then onto the beach, for a long walk back – with the sun completely set now, so it was in the dark. We didn't have a torch with us, but it was easy enough to see the shore line, so walked next to that. It took us just under an hour, and once we got back we relaxed in our little hut for the evening.

Wednesday 24th August:

This morning, we really did do nothing! Hammocks, books, sleep, beach... All the things you want to do when you need chill out time. The wildlife kept us entertain too, lines of Pelicans would appear to surf the waves and pull up at the last moment, just before it would come crashing down on them. After lunch we took a slow walk back up the peninsula, Si had his camera this time, to get some good photos – had a great sunset too! It was so deserted, except for a few fishermen casting out their nets, nobody else was there.

When we got back, good ol Julio was there and he offered to take us turtle spotting this evening, plus walk along the beach again to the baby turtles to see them get releases for real this time! Great! Although, Si and I weren't that confident of seeing the big adults, at least it would be nice to see the babies actually make it to the sea.

After dinner then, we headed out onto the beach with Julio. It was a littler nerving walking along side a man with a torch and a MASSIVE Machete, not quite sure what it was for – and he seemed to know everyone we passed, plus it really didn't feel like a dangerous place. Oh well, he was a nice guy, so we really trusted him.

The long walk there didn't have any big turtles for us – just a few crabs, but that's about it. And soon we were back at the turtle house. Another guy this time came and went to the bucket. He said there were 83 turtles that were going to be released tonight. Each day they have between 50 -100 babies hatching, during the season, but as we all know, unfortunately they don't all survive. This place however, helps them with the first step of the way by getting out of the eggs and into the sea without any danger, after that – its up to fate and luck.

So off we set to the sea. We didn't know about photos or flashes, but they said we could shine a torch to see. Luckily our cam-corder had a torch on it, so I was able to film a little of it (although, not very well, can't see BBC wildlife people phoning any time soon asking to use the footage) 1, 2, 3... and there they were... 83 little baby turtles flapping about on the sand... It was amazing to watch it. Si and I had goosebumps. We were a little confused when the turtles started heading towards us instead of the sea, then our guy said we had to move into the water as they were heading towards our light as if its the moon... So we went and stood in the shallow water, and 83 little dudes started running towards us. Then the first wave came and swept a few away. We couldn't move for fear of standing on them, when the wave went back – some were still there, some facing the wrong way again, and some were actually on my feet, flapping. I helped them down, back into the water and the process happened again and again until all the little baby turtles were finally out in the big wide ocean on their own! Wow... What an experience! What a memory to take with us forever! We donated some more money again, thanked them so much for letting us see this – and as there weren't any other tourists there, it was so special just the 2 of us!

Eventually Julio said it was time to head back, and another long walk in the dark on the sand – it was actually starting to kill my legs a bit, but the possibility of seeing the adult turtles kept us excited. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. We'd obviously used up our turtle quota with the babies, so no big mamas out tonight.

Felt quite exhausted when we got back, also the fresh air seems to knock you out here! So pretty much went back and fell asleep.

Thursday 25th August:

Sad day today – we were leaving this awesome little gem and heading back to San Salvador to get our next bus. There is only one bus that leaves this place, and it went at 12 o'clock, so we had to make sure we didn't miss it. Had a nice breakfast, one last walk on the beach and then packed our things and headed to the bus stop.

Right on time, the same bus we caught here, with the same driver & ticket inspector arrived and we climbed on and had the long journey back. 3 buses later, we arrived back at the same hostel we'd stayed before.
Our bus wasn't leaving until 3am, such an annoying time. The bus station was not a place you could sit and wait all night, but it felt so frustrating paying for a room when we weren't even staying there a full night. Anyways, we had to bite the bullet and get a room, then headed off to the supermarket to get some food for the 13 hour journey. Its been a while since we'd done a long one like this, everything is much closer here than Asia... So we went a little overboard with the snacks. Oh well, they will get eaten eventually.

What was also annoying with the time, was whether to try and get to sleep or not – we decided against it, as the taxi was coming to pick us up at 2am. So stayed up, luckily our room had a TV in it, so we watched crappy movies whilst trying to stay awake.

At 2am the taxi arrived, and took us to the bus station. Why we had to be there an hour before I don't know, as the ticket desk didn't open till 2:30am, but oh well. We waited in the waiting area, which was actually very smart and the ticket lady arrived – very smartly dressed. Looked more like an air-hostess, than a bus lady. It was all very professional. They even took our luggage, gave us tags and then we took an elevator down to the bus.

And wow... What a smart bus. The seats were so comfy, reclined a very nice amount for us to get some sleep... which at this point didn't take us long as we were quite tired by now.
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